Dive Doctor?

How many of you have a doctor? OK… Pretty much most of you. Now, how many of you have a dive doctor? What is the difference? Why does this matter?

We mention this because we are always influenced by other forces and sometimes we limit our ability to dive because of various appliances we are wearing, physical problems we are experiencing or possibly, poor guidance from our “trusted” physicians because, they themselves, do not have all of the facts surrounding the effects of diving on the human body.

The motivator behind jumping into this topic is the fact that I have been wearing braces on my teeth for the past two years and in my consultation with my orthodontist, one of the first questions I asked was, “Will this impede my ability to dive?” Fortunately, his answer was no and I have been on several dive trips where I have not experienced any difficulty with my braces and diving. I thought, at first, that I may have a mouthful with my regulator and two rows of braces but it felt no different from what I remembered in not having my braces. In fact, I think it has helped me improve my “bite” by holding the regulator in my mouth more securely without chewing on the mouthpiece. So braces are okay!

Wear glasses? Two options are available for you here. If you are like me and hundreds of thousands of other divers, you can simply wear contact lenses while you dive. Some of the mask flooding and clearing exercises may be a little more uncomfortable because you are focused on keeping your contacts, but with practice you learn to not panic so you can get the job done. I recommend practicing many times first in shallow depths under controlled conditions before you venture into heavy currents and try mask clearing exercises. The alternate option, and growing in popularity, is to have prescription lenses built into your mask. Many companies offer this and our very own, Esther, had this done with great success. If you are unsure where to start, connect with your optometrist and your local dive shop who can guide you through this decision.

Sinus issue? I’ve had this, too! This is where the dive doctor came into play. Until I found a dive physician, I was receiving speculative answers regarding a bloody discharge from my nose as I surfaced. After consulting a dive physician he provided me with both a prescription inhaler to aid the sensitive capillaries in my nostrils and sinuses prior to my dive and then provided me with techniques and suggestions in slowing my ascent to allow my sinuses more time to adjust to the changes in atmospheric pressures. The benefit of the dive physician was cemented in my mind from that moment.

Ear issue? This is tricky. I have been fortunate not to suffer from ear blockages or equalization problems. How many of you have had problems here? What did you do? I don’t profess to have the answer, but pool sessions or controlled dives in shallow depths will allow you to adapt to the underwater environment slowly and build a physiological confidence in an unusual environment. A dive physician may help here but they can always recommend an ear, nose and throat specialist who can carefully diagnose your problem. However, if you are ever in doubt when it comes to your ears or sinus passages related to congestion, it is better to err on the side of caution than risk the possibility of losing your hearing or suffering permanent damage that will limit your ability to dive. “When in doubt, sit it out.”

Finally… Are you claustrophobic? This is difficult to remedy and happened to be Lana and Esther’s biggest fear when we started off in diving. What can help here? A very patient instructor who will not push you beyond your own limitations and a pool or dive site with a gentle slope to depth will certainly allow you to test your bodies’ response to full submersion. Once you are ready for open water, start off in water with great visibility. We remember our first open water dives at Mamutik Island off Kota Kinabalu. The sandy shore was gradual and there was never any fear of being too far away from the surface. For Esther, once we got away from the shore, she immediately began to feel the claustrophobia subside because suddenly the water was clear and she could see 360 degrees around her. If you suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety, just take it slow and let everyone in your group know that you might need a little extra time to adjust. With a great instructor and understanding friends, you will be enjoying many dives in no time at all.

As with anything medical, we want to heavily emphasize that we are not discounting any non-dive physician recommendation to not dive, nor are we providing you with a blanket waiver to get out there and dive without repercussion, but we recommend that you seek the counsel of a physician who is also an avid diver and may be able to offer you options that other physicians are not aware of.

Happy Diving!

Tim

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